To help us provide you with free impartial advice, we may earn a commission if you buy through links on our site. Learn more

Xiaomi 14 Ultra hands-on review: A mostly enticing UK debut

With the 14 Ultra, Xiaomi is finally bringing its top-tier handset to the UK. But does it have what it takes to compete?

The Xiaomi 14 Ultra has been unveiled as part of the brand’s showcase on the eve of MWC 2024. There’s a lot about this phone that’s worth talking about – and we’ll get into that below – but the biggest surprise is that the Ultra model will launch in the UK at all.

Around this time last year, Xiaomi introduced both the compact Xiaomi 13 and its beefier sibling, the Xiaomi 13 Pro, to our shores, but the top-end Xiaomi 13 Ultra  never made it over to Blighty. We’re still only getting two devices, but this year it’s the Xiaomi 14 Pro that’s getting the chop, leaving the Xiaomi 14 and Xiaomi 14 Ultra on UK shelves.

Considering that, out of the three 13-series models, we were least impressed with the Pro, this feels like a good move. But with the compact (and cheaper) Xiaomi 14 already making a strong impression, the Ultra has its work cut out to prove itself among the best smartphones on the market and worthy of the additional cost. So let’s have a look at what kind of specifications it’s bringing to the table.

Xiaomi 14 Ultra hands-on review: Specifications, price and release date

  • 6.73in 120Hz LTPO AMOLED 3,200 x 1,440 display
  • Octa-core 3.3GHz Snapdragon 8 Gen 3 processor
  • 16GB RAM
  • 512GB storage
  • Quad rear cameras: 50MP (f/1.6 – f/4.0 variable) main, 50MP (f/1.8) ultrawide, 50MP (f/2.5) 5x telephoto, 50MP (f/2.0) 3.2x telephoto
  • Selfie camera: 32MP (f/2.0)
  • 5,000mAh battery
  • 90W fast charging
  • IP68-rated waterproofing
  • 77 x 9.2 x 161mm
  • 220g
  • Black, White
  • UK release date: 18 March 2024
  • UK price: £1,299

Xiaomi 14 Ultra hands-on review: Design, key features and first impressions

£1,299 is definitely a hefty price, but the Xiaomi 14 Ultra actually comes in cheaper than the same capacity variants of the Samsung Galaxy S24 Ultra and iPhone 15 Pro Max. However, both of those offer cheaper, lower storage options, as well as ultimate 1TB models. With Xiaomi covering neither of those bases, it already feels like it’s on the back foot as far as broad appeal goes.

Otherwise, the Xiaomi 14 Ultra has all the trimmings you’d expect of a top-quality flagship. The processor is the same Snapdragon 8 Gen 3 that powers the non-Ultra Xiaomi 14, but it’s backed up here by a hefty 16GB of RAM. The battery is a fairly standard 5,000mAh, and charging support extends to 90W wired and 80W wireless.

The camera system is similar to the Xiaomi 14’s, but there are improvements across the board. They’re still Leica branded, as the lenses on all of Xiaomi’s recent flagships have been, but the main 50MP camera uses a massive one-inch sensor and has a variable aperture ranging between f/1.6 and f/4.0.

The 50MP ultrawide and 50MP 2.3x telephoto cameras also have better apertures than their Xiaomi 14 counterparts, at f/1.8 apiece, and there’s an extra 50MP lens (f/2.5) here, offering a 5x optical zoom.

As with the Xiaomi 13 Ultra, these cameras are arranged neatly into a massive circular module on the rear. It’s definitely chunky but it melds elegantly enough into the rear panel.

The blue model I went hands-on with had a glossy finish on the back that felt like ceramic, but it’s looking like only the vegan leather-coated Black and White variants are coming to the UK. Speaking of UK omissions, the frame of the demo unit was aluminium, with the special edition titanium model apparently skipping a British release.

What we do get still feels good in the hand, though, with gentle curves that nestle well enough into the palm. The one I played around with felt a little on the heavy side, but the models that are actually coming to the UK should be lighter, with the vegan leather bringing the total weight down to around 220g.

And then there’s the display. We’ll need to wait for the full review to see what kind of brightness and colour accuracy is on offer, but the display certainly has some impressive specifications. The 6.73in LTPO AMOLED panel has a super-sharp 3,200 x 1,440 resolution and a dynamic refresh rate with a range between 1 and 120Hz. Unlike the Xiaomi 14, which has a layer of Gorilla Glass Victus over the display, the Xiaomi 14 Ultra is keeping things in-house, employing Xiaomi’s own Shield Glass for scratch protection.

Speaking of Xiaomi proprietaries, the reign of MIUI OS is over. The 14-series is debuting the new and allegedly improved Xiaomi launcher, HyperOS. Playing around with it, I was definitely struck with a Shakespearean, “rose by any other name” kind of déjà vu. The icons still feel very Xiaomi (read: over the top) and navigation is a far cry from the simplicity of stock Android.

In fact, things have somehow got even more cluttered with this facelift. Xiaomi’s focus on integrating all of its smart features will be appreciated by those who are immersed in the ecosystem, but it doesn’t half make the control centre a mess.

As standard, swiping down from the right side of the top edge (the left opens notifications) presents you with a dozen or so quick-action tiles, with usual suspects such as the torch, aeroplane mode and Bluetooth toggle all present. What bugged me was that the general settings icon, a feature that is traditionally placed separately to be swiftly identified, is buried in the pile.

Sure, you can edit the tiles to your heart’s content, but that being the standard just feels like HyperOS is taking yet another step away from streamlined and user-friendly interfaces. Throw in the multitude of optional smart-home tiles that you can add to the mix, and it will all too quickly become an out-of-control centre.

READ NEXT: Best budget smartphone

Xiaomi 14 Ultra hands-on review: Early verdict

The Xiaomi 14 Ultra is jumping directly into the deep end of the UK smartphone market, stepping up to competitors such as the Samsung Galaxy S24 Ultra and Apple iPhone 15 Pro Max. This is an area (and a price) where only the best will do, so until I’ve run the Xiaomi 14 Ultra through the Expert Reviews testing gauntlet, it’s hard to know how it’s going to stack up against the competition.

At first glance, though, it definitely has potential. The design is slick and sturdy, the internal components are all what you’d expect from a flagship, and the camera system has a lot of promise. I’m far from sold on the software redesign, and I still think that a lack of storage options feels like a self-inflicted gunshot wound to the foot, but if the Xiaomi 14 Ultra does well enough in our tests, these could well be minor flaws that are worth overlooking.

Read more

First Look